[WIP] Old School Space Station from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

DaltonSpenceDaltonSpence Traveler
edited September 9 in Show and Tell

One of the iconic images from my youth came from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” where the Orion III Spaceplane with the Pan Am logo docked with the slowly spinning Space Station V to the tune of the Blue Danube waltz. Sadly Stanley Kubrick insisted that all the models, sets and plans used in the movie be destroyed so they couldn’t be reused in cheap sci-fi movies or TV programs afterward. This meant that modelers trying to recreate the ships, space station and moon base from the movie had to actually measure the stills from the film. When I tried to find creditable data on the space station I found widely varying estimates of its diameter.

The most well reasoned estimate I found was from the Stargazer Models site which based the station’s dimensions on those of the Orion III Spaceplane which Stargazer recalculated from pictures of the plane’s passenger cabin and the station’s docking bay. These values were larger than the commonly accepted ones (a couple of sites used his 1836 foot diameter but most were about half that) but made more sense logically. I’m a mapper rather than a modeler and I found a few issues with official design of the station because of this.

  1. After trimming this image and pasting it into my map with the suggested diameter I measured the habitat ring and discovered it was 168 feet thick. That equals 14 twelve foot decks (including floor/ceiling structures) or 12 fourteen foot ones. (The smaller official dimensions probably made set design easier.) Certainly enough room for a Hilton hotel though. The “bottom” deck would probably contain “ballast tanks” to balance the wheel when loads moved about.
  2. A 52 foot diameter spoke (click Stargazer’s hub design) has room for a lot of elevators. Indeed one could be reserved for storing (and/or launching) up to 15 Aries 1B landers (4 more if they are stacked in the habitat ring). Work pods might also be deployed from the rim (bottom) of the habitat ring but would have to be recovered by docking in the hangar bay too.
  3. Any spacecraft docking in a spinning hangar bay has to match the station’s spin (which was shown in the movie) and connect with the docking mechanism directly on the centerline of the hub. (See the Orbiter Wiki page for details.) The docking clamps could be on tracks to move the spacecraft closer to the walls of the hangar for on/off loading passengers and cargo, but the spin axis of the craft would have to be moved back to the centerline for it to safely depart.

After considering these issues I decided that this map set would not be a direct rendition of SS5 but instead my version of what it could have been. For each of the points above my response would be:

  1. I chose 13 twelve foot habitat decks plus two 6 foot outside decks (attic/bilge) that would include the hull thickness and contain important utilities. At a rotation speed of 0.8 rpm the innermost habitat deck would be at roughly lunar gravity (1/6 g) while the outermost one would be at approximately 0.2 g. Several sources have said 1 hour a day spent under 0.3 g would be enough to maintain one's health in a low gravity environment so I got the idea of large maglev trains running spinward on the lowest deck to provide this to permanent residents and long-term guests of the Hilton. (See below.*)
  2. I only mentioned using a spoke to store/launch Aries 1B landers to emphasize how large they are. I can easily see an Orion II Cargo Spaceplane carrying two ISO standard 40 foot cargo containers side-by-side (there is room for this if the passenger compartment and galley are replaced) that could be lowered by a special elevator in one spoke to the habitat ring. A custom cargo module for the Orion II is more likely than an ISO one but should have the same length.
  3. There is no real reason why the station should have a double ring so mine won’t. Since the docking bay is 230 feet wide (greatest width) by 244 feet deep and 63 feet high, the 213 foot long Orion III Spaceplane can rotate 180° to leave the same way it entered but it would be much more practical if it could pass through the bay to exit the other side. (It is open to space anyway, why not both sides?)

* On Deck 1 there is the “Fast Track” mag-lev rail line that is used by the permanent residents to exercise under 0.31 g for an hour each day to maintain their health. The four trains (one for each sector) depart from their subsector 5 stations every 75 minutes from 0800 to 2300 Zulu and circle the station 15 times at 13 mph spinward relative to the deck then spend 15 minutes loading and unloading passengers. Each train is 24 feet wide and 150 feet long consisting of two 75 foot cars: one is a fully equipped gym (a ticket includes 20 minutes use of the facilities) and the other a dining car/lounge for people waiting their turn on the equipment. Residents and long term guests at the Hilton can use the “Fast Track” for free (it’s included in their rent) but visitors and transients (and residents/guests who want extra time on it) need to make reservations and pay a substantial fee. There are 12 foot wide boarding platforms on each side of the track every third subsector but only the subsector 5 ones are used regularly: the ones at subsectors 2 and 8 are for emergencies only. There are access stairs to Deck 2 in the middle of each platform beside the elevator (both which reach to Deck 13) but the gates to the emergency stations are usually locked. Note: this is not a transit system; its a public health utility (and occasional tourist attraction)!

The grey blocks are ballast tanks used to keep the station balanced by spreading mass evenly around the rim of the habitat ring. This map is repeated throughout Deck 1 but the “Fast Track Express” only stops at Subsector 5. Okay, that's 12 maps down, only 144 to go. 😁

More to come …

  1. Do you want to hear more about the "Fast Track Express"4 votes
    1. Yes
    2. No
Monsenmike robelLoopysueJimP


  • Dalton, this sounds like a cool project. Are you going to present an overall rendering of your station. If you were a modeler, I'd suggest this to you: https://fantastic-plastic.com/2001-space-station-v---catalog.html for a mere $125.00 of brass and resin parts. It has some nice renderings, if a bit small, as well as photos of the completed model.

  • This is the drawing that I originally used in the first step 1 to determine the height of the habitat ring.

    I've been corresponding with Stargazer and he attached a copy he had of the original plans for the model SS5. I used that to make the following cross-section plan.

    You may notice I'm using Eurostile and Eurostile Extended fonts in my maps like HAL 9000 did in the movie. 😲 Here is a table of statistics about the Habitat Ring.

    I have some more information about the "Fast Track Express" but I want put it all together first. Remember, the maximum permanent and long term population of the station would be 48 times the passenger capacity of a single "Express" train (12 trips/day × 4 sectors). This is just one of the ways the "Fast Track" program affects station society.

  • Stargazer is a fine guy to work with and talk to. I have several of his models: Orion passenger and cargo shuttles, Aries 1B Lunar Shuttle, Discovery, The small lunar passenger shuttle that takes people to the TMI-1 site, and the early version of what has become Project Orion

  • DaltonSpenceDaltonSpence Traveler
    edited September 11

    Continuing my notes on the Fast Track program.

    Fast Track Crew

    The ‘Fast Track’ day is divided into three ‘watches’ (A, B and C) of four trips (5 hours) each. Each watch is served by a ‘crew’ of 10 divided into two ‘teams’ of 5 (gym and lounge). Since each crew member spends four hours under 0.31 Gs during their shift, the whole crew gets two days off before their next train duty. This isn’t actually ‘time off’; as station employees they usually have ‘regular jobs(1)’ three of the four ‘off’ days during a six day work cycle. Since train duty is a short 5 hour shift it works out to the about the same work/rest ratio. As a result there are nine crews for each sector (each assigned a number from 1-9(2)) for a total of 360 employees working the trains.

    Crews usually stay together (although individuals may swap jobs) and while they may rotate “watches” in the same day there seldom any other changes to avoid disrupting the ‘regular’ job schedule. Off duty crews frequently socialize together and often engage in team sports for fun. (The “Fast Track League” plays a popular local low-G sport(3) and has a large fan following among the regular passengers who watch their games on the local cable channel.) There is a reserve of employees with training in ‘Fast Track’ duties who usually have ‘regular’ jobs but may be recruited at a moment’s notice to replace crew members who are ill or taking some vacation time (which because of the high cost of transport usually means becoming a ‘passenger’ for a while(4)).

    Fast Track Passengers

    While a few regular passengers(5) choose to play the ‘Fast Track Lottery Game’ and are assigned a random free billet every day, most schedule a certain time slot on a particular train so they can meet and socialize with a familiar group of faces. While not as prone to group activities when off the train as the crew, a good many life-long friendships and yes, romances too, have started when running treadmills next to each other or waiting at the bar for a drink. There have been birthday parties, weddings, a couple of baptisms and at least one memorial service celebrated on the train because these are the people who will be (or were) there anyway, so you might as well invite them into your life. It is also a place for an informal business meeting or perhaps a meeting of quite a different kind (discretion is always appreciated).

    And there is always the fact you can get an excellent meal there(6); many of the best restaurants on the station look on their catering contracts with the Fast Track operation as an important form of advertising. Even if there are no chairs; drinks and meals are served either at the bar or to a standing height table (children are provide with step-stools to give them the necessary height). Since the purpose of spending an hour in 0.31 G is to improve one’s health it seems ill advised to neutralize the benefit by “lounging around”.


    1. They usually have low level maintenance, office or security jobs, but some middle managers volunteer for Fast Track work to get out of the office. (There is an unconfirmed rumor that some senior staff do that too.)
    2. Yes, this means Fast Track crews are commonly referred to by sector and number just like subsectors.
    3. No, I don’t know what kind of ‘local low-G sport’. It hasn’t been invented yet.
    4. Complimentary passenger fares are part of the ‘Fast Track’ crew vacation package because they are much cheaper than a two-way space-plane ticket between the station and Earth.
    5. Frequent visitors to the station may buy a short term subscription to the Fast Track service for the duration of their stay. While about half the price of individual tickets it is still more than is charged in rent to permanent residents and long term guests.
    6. Meals are usually only served on the first trip of each watch, but special arrangements can be made with the station hospitality office to cater parties on other trips. This is also an important source of tourist revenue.

    To be continued …

  • DaltonSpenceDaltonSpence Traveler
    edited September 12

    And Now for Something Completely Different …

    Here is where I start asking for some advice and recommendations.

    I decided to map the interface between the habitat and the spokes on deck 13 (D) Subsector 5. Two of the spokes (Alpha and Gamma) would handle cargo transfer while the other two (Beta and Delta) would handle personnel. That's when I realized I had a problem: according to Stargazer the Orion II Cargoplane had a cargo bay that was 60 feet long and 18 feet in diameter (same as the space shuttle apparently). A cargo module that size couldn't fit down the spoke (well it could stood on end but would take up five decks in the habitat ring) so I cut the length to 40 feet so it could lie on its side. That would just fit down the spoke but would still take up two decks in the ring. I had already decided there would be a few double-deck compartments so this is what I came up with:

    Here is the center section of Alpha-5-13 closeup:

    The hazard striped platform in the center is the actual freight elevator which doesn't stop at deck 13 but proceeds down to 12. The hazard striped areas above and below this are parking spots on deck 12 for additional cargo modules. (The modules are placed in wheeled cradles for easier movement.) As you can see, there are no stairs up from this deck: instead there are airlocks with ladders to the roof of the ring outside the spoke while the ladders on the diagonal walls lead to the spoke's inside. I may put railings on this deck's platforms later.

    Here is deck 12. As you can see, it has the standard personnel elevator/emergency stairs arrangement.

    Oh, the questions?

    1. What should I do with subsectors 4 and 6? Extend the cargo area? Add other 2-deck facilities? Go with single decks in these subsectors?
    2. I've been toying with the idea putting skylights in deck 13. They would be good for providing some natural light for parks, shopping areas or hydroponics. Unlike side windows they would be less likely to induce vertigo because
      1. one has to look up to see them, and
      2. the hub and spokes would give the viewer fixed points to focus on.
  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 8 images Mapmaker Administrator
    1. I guess that is a matter what you are trying to fit in here. It would be a natural place for double height spacing if you have other facilities that require it. I guess it also depends on the structural integrity here, would it affect structural integrity to have all double height? Maybe they need to be single height to support the double-height next door? These things are separate though, so unless you have a good reason for it, then I would probably go with the single-height version for these.
    2. Never been on a rotating space structure, but your arguments makes sense. It is quite nice to have some places to look out as well. I imagine laying on my back in a nice little park, looking out the skylight above. Make sure they are adequately protected from micro-meteorites and the kind.
  • DaltonSpenceDaltonSpence Traveler
    edited September 14

    The main structural supports for the habitat ring are the vertical access stacks every third subsector (2,5,8). This is why I included them in the template I use to create these maps. It looks like this:

    Oddly, I couldn't insert the above image inside an ordered list.🤨 The exceptions to the above arrangement occur on deck 13 (ignore the platform, the diagonal ladders, the bulkhead extensions and the deck below)

    And deck 1 (you might recognize the "Fast Track")

    The arrows are my custom symbols that I derived from DD3 Color. (Sorry for the dimpling above, I'll get rid of it somehow.) I hope I've got the elevators the right way around, I couldn't tell which side was supposed to have the doors. 😊 Additional structural support can be found beneath every odd numbered deck: a strong "keel" member runs down the center supported on each side at every subsector boundary by cross-members connected to the hull. I'm still trying to decide whether to put a pressure wall every 3 sub-sectors (between the maps) with air-tight doors that can be locked down in an emergency.

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